Eye Sightings

The Consumer Eyes Blog

Smart Health... Globally

In this country, we've already grown accustomed to the ways smart phones are infiltrating nearly every facet of our lives.

One small but growing trend is the use of apps that let consumers take control of their healthcare. Numerous services, like Polka, theCarrot, Google Health and Ringful (which offers a range of specialized apps) all allow users to input their medical information and history online (for anytime, anywhere reference), track their conditions or receive health alerts on their smart phone.

Where these technologies really hold the promise of changing people's lives, and changing the way healthcare is delivered, is in the developing world. DataDyne's EpiSurveyor is a cloud-computing application that allows officials to gather global healthcare data about the spread of illnesses via a free web-based system accessed through mobile phones. And more apps are on the way.

Last week, at the 2010 mHealth Summit (an international conference focusing on the use of mobile technology in the healthcare arena), Bill Gates announced a series of large grants to developers struggling to solve the world’s most pressing health problems, all of them pioneering the use of cell phones to improve healthcare in communities where resources are limited.

Projects under development:

  • A disposable malaria biosensor based on a SIM card platform that would allow malaria detection to be performed using a cell phone, making diagnostic testing more widely available in rural and remote areas
  • An app that uses clinical algorithms to quickly identify women at risk during labor and delivery, and offers assistance facilitating an emergency transfer to a hospital
  • A mobile phone-based vaccination registry that uses fingerprint scans to track people who have received immunizations, with the goal of reducing redundant doses and increase coverage levels

“It’s going to take time to get the apps onto phones, but maybe not as long as you think," says David Aylward, head of the mHealth Alliance. At the core of the alliance is the notion that most people in developed and developing countries already have cell phones. "If you can deliver healthcare through those phones, you can keep people out of hospitals, reduce healthcare costs, and save lives."